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Copyright © 2020 CORA ANN

The German-American Fest in Heidelberg, Germany


It was one summer in the 1980s. During that time, I was a U.S. Army stenographer stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. My two daughters and I lived in military family housing in Patrick Henry Village. Americans referred to it as PHV.

I loved the convenient location of PHV. It was about a 20-minute drive to the Keys Building on Campbell Barracks, where I worked. Plus, as a military family so far away from home, we enjoyed all the accommodations and facilities of a tight-knit American community.


Everything we needed was a short distance from our doorstep. For entertainment, we had a theater, a bowling alley, a video store, and a social club with a restaurant. We had access to a tennis court and designated running paths. For the youngsters, we had a playground, a library, and two elementary schools. Also, we had a church, a thrift shop, a clothes cleaner, and a shoppette. Rounding out our amenities was a social club with a small restaurant and a two-story hotel for military members and their families. My favorite place for lunch sometimes on PHV was Le Pavillion. It was a sprawling building with a classy restaurant. Most often, it hosted military balls, dinners, and other official functions.


What made our living quarters even sweeter was the annual German-American Festival (fest), which took place every summer. The German workers set the fest up in a grassy area in the center of PHV. That summer, preparations were underway to set up the fest, which would get in full swing a few days later.


The day had arrived. Everything was ready for the crowds of kids and adults that would swoop through the festival area. Early that morning, my girls and I strolled over to the site. Fascinated, we Oohed and Aahed at all the rides, games, and food booths that would be at our disposal. Some of the vendors had started by firing up their portable stoves. The sugary smell of cotton candy and fresh popcorn permeated the air. Aromas of sweet German desserts, fresh crepes, German wursts (sausages), and fresh broetchen surrounded us. Calories tossed aside, my mouth watered as I smelled my favorite dish of grilled steaks and onions, which I planned to buy later. And the vendors knew that hungry Germans and Americans would snap all this food up in no time.


Live bands entertained us with an eclectic mix of music to suit everyone's tastes. We gawked at the festive souvenirs, fancy hats, and colorful scarves. Arrays of local intricate hand-made items fascinated me. A slew of booths with challenging games kept kids busy spending their parents' money.


While roaming around, my youngest daughter, the daredevil of the family, grabbed my arm to drag me over to this frightening-looking ride that resembled an enormous Viking ship. Its imposing look reminded me of DAS BOOT (The Boat), a riveting movie I had recently seen of the sinking of a German submarine during the war. I envisioned a ride on this Viking ship would be a mere fraction of the terror the men on that submarine experienced. 


A sturdy steel pendulum, which rose to a height of about 50 feet, balanced the ship securely in the middle. I determined that the thrill of this ride was that the boat swung on the pendulum from one side to the other to heights and accompanying pressure way beyond my levels of comfort and toleration. So, no, I wasn't about to go down that road with my daughter. I tried to shoo her away, but she didn't budge.


I felt like her prisoner as she stood by my side as I watc...

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